On Friday December 2, 2011 a pivotal event occurred in Rocinha — a well known ‘community leader/politician’ was arrested for associating with drug traffickers. Anyone who watches the news in Brazil and especially Rio de Janeiro knows who we are referring to. The point of this posting is not to go into details about this individual or any others here in Rocinha, but instead to make a general comment about corruption, violence and lingering poverty in Rio’s favelas. It would be nice to go into details, because we know a lot, but we also live here and know that not as much has changed here (internal power structure) as the media is presenting. Below is a deliberately simple rundown of ideologies and political-economic theories regarding poor urban communities that Fridays event was related to.
There are many corrupt and dangerous leaders in Rocinha who need to be investigated and imprisoned. If not, it is undeniable that much of PAC 2 money will be stolen and diverted just as was the case with PAC 1.
Many on the right (the conservatives) argue that favelas are a result of people’s laziness, addictive personalities, natural inclination to violence and a pervasive ‘culture of poverty’ that exist in slums and ghettos. This is the approach that often ‘blames the victims’ for their problems. Many on the left (the progressives) argue that social problems in communities like Rocinha are a result of external oppression, caused by the politics and economics of powerful elites who have constructed a social structure that benefits them at the expense of the working classes and poor. A more integrated approach would try to combine some of these theories. Mundo Real undoubtedly sides much more with those on the left. Another factor that is usually omitted from grand theories on poverty and inequality is the enormous role that local level violence and corruption play in favela communities. Removing the ‘armed’ drug traffickers was the easy task for the state to accomplish, removing the highly corrupt local level politicians, businesses, and ‘community leaders’ is going to be much harder. On Friday the 2nd this process began, but there are dozens of others, some much more corrupt and dangerous, who need to be investigated and imprisoned as well. If not, it is undeniable that much of PAC 2 money will be stolen and diverted just as was the case with PAC 1.